The Mind’s Projections.

Last Thursday I participated in a conversation group with three international students. The other volunteers were Caucasian; I was the only Asian-American (as usual). Immediately when I met my group, I felt like they thought they got the “most un-American” American out of the volunteers. So immediately I felt down on myself.

Yet, with this kind of thinking, I know it is only self-destructive and self-prophetic: If I project to the students that I am inferior to the other Americans, then they will also think that way.

I find this has been one big defining insecurity of mine: despite enjoying helping international students out, I’ve always felt that they don’t think I’m as good of an English partner to have as someone who “looks” American. I know that other Asian-Americans have experienced the same feeling: standing in the middle of the road, not accepted when we give our help freely to our brothers and sisters from overseas….yet, getting treated like foreigners ourselves by other Americans.

This was the spark I presented at Ignite Denver, and only a few weeks after the presentation am I able to etch out all these thoughts into a blog post. There is much more I can say, and I’ve thought about writing a book about this experience. Perhaps others have already. Still, everyone has a unique experience.

#foodie American Culture Asian-American health

White rice vs. Brown rice

Interesting topic came up today in a conversation with my friend; ever since I began to eat healthier and reading up on healthy diets/etc. in magazines, I have noticed how most of the diets are very American-oriented; meaning, the foods are all just…American. Salad, sandwiches, etc. There are some “Asian” dishes thrown in, but always stir-fry or some kind of fusion.

So I asked my friend today, “Why are all these diets racist!” I say “racist” in jest, but really, how come so many health plans say “NO” to white rice? I know, brown rice has more nutrients apparently…but how come then pretty much all of Asia consumes white rice? “It’s processed, no nutrients, etc.” is what I keep reading. But tell me, how come the world’s oldest/healthiest people live in…Asia? They eat white rice; brown rice is too expensive, and most of Asia is relatively poor.

Try going into any Asian restaurant and requesting for brown rice–you won’t get it at most places. So far, I’ve only seen a few Thai restaurants offer brown rice, but even then, that’s only one type of Asian restaurant. Korean? They shot down the request when I attempted to ask for substitution. Chinese? Japanese? I highly doubt they will honor the request.

White rice forever.

Asian-American Chinese Culture rant

ABCs (American-Born Chinese)

It’s almost always like this:

While being introduced to another Chinese person…

Chinese person: Oh, who are you?
Parents’ friends: Oh, she’s my friend’s daughter. She was born here [in the United States].
Chinese person: Oh, I see, you’re one of those American-Born Chinese.
Me: Uh..yeah? (Thinks to self “You got a problem with that?”)

I don’t like how the fact that I was born here in the US is always made into such a big deal when I’m with relatives or family friends. Can’t they just get over the fact and let us ABCs be?

Asian-American My San Francisco Chronicles observation race


I don’t know why it still shocks/surprises me when I encounter another Asian-American like myself; for the longest time, I was one of very few Asian-Americans living in my hometown. Even though I met a considerable amount of Asian-Americans in college, I always ended up just hanging out with the caucasian kids anyway. Plus, in my classes, it seemed that there were more non-native Asians than Asian-Americans most of the time.

San Francisco and probably California in general has a huge population of Asian-Americans. Actually, today marks the beginning of the 11th Annual United States of Asian America Festival, which is a month-long celebration of Asian-American artists through visual art, multimedia, theater, and dance. My friend and I went to the opening reception today, where we got to see artist Flo Oy Wong’s work on display, and some Noodle dances.

Anyway, at the event, there were many Asian-Americans, which my friend said reminded her of Hawaii. For me, I felt at home with other Asian-Americans, since we all could relate in many ways; I am sure most of the people there had been mistaken before as “non-native” or whatnot. Possibly most of them grew up in dual cultures as well; maybe even some of them can only speak English now, and not their mother tongue.

This brings me to another story from earlier today; I was on the bus on the way to get bubble tea and do some window-shopping. A woman came onto the bus and sat a few seats away from me and was gabbing away to a friend on her cell phone. It seemed that she was having issues at work, since she was speaking rather loudly and I could hear everything she was saying. I hadn’t noticed the woman when she first got on the bus, so I didn’t know how she looked like. I just automatically assumed, from the way she was speaking, that she was caucasian (it’s a horrible assumption, I apologise). When I was about to leave the bus, I turned and glanced at the woman and realized she was Asian-American–just like me.

I guess the point I am trying to make, is that even though I now live in a city where there’s so much diversity, so much more chance to meet others with similar backgrounds as me, I still find it strange to run into another Asian-American. Most of my friends here are Asian-American, but I never really noticed our similarities before. Is it strange to think like this?

Asian-American My San Francisco Chronicles public library quotation race

Jennifer 8. Lee Reading at SFPL

(This post is coming…rather late. Backdating the entry)

Jennifer 8. Lee had a book reading event at the SFPL on March 26, 2008. The room was mostly packed with Asian-Americans; a little surprising and amusing to me. Lee’s slideshow was fun to watch and was basically a short summary of what was all in her book. I had managed to read all except 20 pages left in the book; really good read in general.

One quotation from the book that really struck me was this:

“Look at me, and you may see someone Chinese. Close your eyes, and you will hear someone American.”

This quotation strikes me because of how accurately it describes most of what Asian-Americans experience in this country…probably everywhere else in the world besides their homelands. I find myself always getting confused for a “foreigner”, wherever I go in the US. People don’t seem to believe me when I say I am American; they give me this look as if I’m crazy for thinking that Americans can be Asians, too.

Even in San Francisco, I get mistaken as being “one of them” in Chinatown. Although I guess it makes them less discriminating towards me, at the same time, it gives me an uncomfortable position when I actually have to speak and they realize that my Taishanese is really limited.

I don’t know why it’s such a hard concept–after all, isn’t the US known for its diversity? Yet, I guess Asian-Americans seem like a “new breed” to many people. Who knows.